John Glen is Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and is MP for Salisbury.
This is a pivotal year in the future of the UK and will define the next decade. There has been a shifting mood in the financial services community during 2019. There is a growing recognition that despite the risks, effective delivery of Brexit can enable firms based in the City to seize new opportunities with the removal of current uncertainty.
As the longest serving Economic Secretary to the Treasury since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, I am immensely proud of standing up for the interests of the City. The unique financial and legal ecosystem of the Square Mile is one of this country’s greatest economic assets, predating our membership of the European Union by four centuries. We have always been not merely a European financial centre, but a global one. Our economic interests do not stop at the Bosphorus or the Strait of Gibraltar.
Of course, that does not mean we should ignore our position in existing markets. The future terms of our trading relationship with major European economies will continue to be crucial, particularly given the importance of London’s deep and liquid capital markets to EU members. But we also need the resolve, determination, boldness and optimism to seize the opportunities that exist outside the European Union whilst continuing to compete with Europe.
Projections by PwC suggest that the EU27’s share of the global economy will be in single digits by 2050, as hundreds of millions of middle class consumers are added in emerging markets. We have to pursue an economic programme – and deliver a Brexit – that leaves our economy in the best shape to engage with this new reality, not preserve in aspic a framework better suited to the mid-1970s.
As the UK is about to change Prime Minister we have two candidates who have the necessary experience. But at this unique moment in our history and with the opportunities that are before us, it is Boris Johnson who has the vision and determination to deliver Brexit, and develop policies that can best drive UK prosperity.
If we do not grasp the nettle and the government flirts with further delays to Brexit, we risk not delivering it at all. Such a scenario would endanger the Conservative Party’s grip on power, resulting in a Brexit managed by our political opponents, damaging the country’s economic interests. We need an open, dynamic, global Brexit, not a Corbynite push to nationalise our economy or a Faragist drive for protectionism and isolation.
In Johnson, we have a future Prime Minister who has a tried and tested record of promoting financial services, having defended and championed the City with a passion, post-Crash. At a time when it became – and sadly still is fashionable in some circles – to attack financial services, Boris took a more robust position, confounding his critics that he lacked the seriousness to be Mayor of London.
We need to recapture our confidence in defending the market as the engine of our prosperity and promote popular capitalism. As Mayor, Johnson pursued a broad and open policy agenda that combined promoting the City and the interests of all Londoners, not just high earners. He wanted a London that created economic and social opportunity, and where people felt safe to visit and work. Writing as a Wiltshire MP where we have faced challenges in policing, I am also very pleased to see his pledge to recruit 20,000 new police officers and refocus our efforts on tackling crime.
It is now over three years since the British people tasked the government with delivering our departure from the European Union. It’s time to implement the result of the referendum and build a dynamic and forward-looking Britain. We will need to be nimble and agile, ready to prosper in a world of rapid technological change and wider economic horizons.